Best Books About Family Diversity & Alternative Family Structures!

Looking for stories about family diversity and alternative families? Children’s books about blended families, books with same-sex parents, or great reads about adoption? Check out this list!

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Best Books for Beginning Readers – The Ultimate List for Kids Starting to Read!

The best books for beginning readers have large text, short sentences, lots of repetition and simple structure. Most importantly? They must be fun and engaging! Find out if your kids are ready for easy readers, and check out more than twenty pre reader books we love!

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Picture Books About Winter and Snow!

Looking for children’s books about winter, especially picture books about snow? Look no further!

Favorite Books About Winter and Amazing Picture Books About Snow

It doesn’t snow in Miami.

This was a cruel reality when I was a child. When winter break began, I watched holiday movies on television with such longing, wishing I could jump right into the picture on the screen so I could join in an epic snowball fight or sit at the kitchen table with a steaming mug of hot chocolate while snow blanketed the world outside. Instead, I was “stuck” in tropical paradise. While most people couldn’t wait to come to South Florida for a vacation, I just wanted the temperature to drop below seventy degrees. Cousins would send pictures of snowmen while we were more likely sweating than shivering, and retail stores were filled with sweaters, mittens and hats which, if purchased, would rarely be worn.

What to do when it seemed the rest of the world was winter-white and rosy cheeked? I couldn’t just hop on a plane and head to the mountains, so I had to create a winter wonderland right in my own home. The best way to do that? I used books, of course. I was a kid with a big imagination and a voracious appetite for story, so reading became my entryway into a magical, mystical world where silent treks through the snowy plains I saw in books led me to create my own imaginary snow days, right smack in the middle of steamy Miami.

There have forever been beautiful stories about snow, which, of course, makes so much sense. Snow is a natural wonder that, with nothing more than a gentle whisper, creates magic across the miles. It allows the imagination to take flight, inspires play in its purest form, and fosters a great sense of awe in children. So the next day you’re snowed in -- or looking longingly at palm trees and wishing they were white capped mountains - grab a stack of these books from the library, make a cup of cocoa, and cuddle on the couch with these perfect winter reads.  

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Little Penguins, by Cynthia Rylant and Christian Robinson: The snow is coming! Perfect for your youngest children, five little penguins watch the snow fall and bundle themselves up before heading outside to play. But, oh no! The littlest penguin decides to stay behind to wait for mama.  When their snowy fun is finished, the penguins come back inside, warm up in their coziest jammies, and relax with cookies and sippies. Winter is here!

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Samson in the Snow, by Philip Stead: Samson, a giant woolly mammoth, shares his dandelions with a red bird who is looking to cheer up a sad friend. When the bird flies away, Samson is left wondering what it would be like to have a real friend of his own. Samson subsequently awakens from a deep sleep, only to find the world covered in snow. He immediately worries about the red bird, so he sets off to find her to ensure she’s warm. As Samson journeys through the snow, he finds that warmth can be found in more ways than one. A testament to compassion, kindness and friendship, we simply love this quiet, beautiful story!

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Before Morning, by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes: Written as an invocation, this quiet beauty tells the story of of a young girl who wishes for just a little more time for family togetherness. The child yearns for a snow day so her mother, a pilot, will be grounded and forced to stay home. Through Krommes enchanting scratch board illustrations, readers witness what happens while the child sleeps soundly and her deepest desires are fulfilled: she will wake up to a blanket of snow outside her window.

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Bear and Wolf, by Daniel Salmieri: One winter’s night, bear and wolf stumble upon each other while both wander in the snow. What fun it is to have a companion! The two delight in having a friend by their side, until it comes time to say goodbye. After all, bear must hibernate for the winter and wolf must run with his pack. This is a beautiful, timeless story, a calming read that is at once an ode to friendship and a testament to the power of being mindful and staying in the present.

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Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr: Late one night in the dead of winter, a young girl and her father set out to go owling. They barely speak on their journey through the snow, for you don’t need words to go owling.  Instead, they maintain hopeful hearts and exercise patience as they wait to witness the resolute stare of a wise old owl. A poetic masterpiece and an exquisite mentor text to explore personal narratives, this is a story that has captivated both children and adults for years.

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Max and Marla, by Alexandra Boiger: Max and his pet owl, Marla, are the truest of Olympians. They are champions who know preparation is everything.  When they take their sled up the mountain only to experience "technical difficulties," the two don't give up-- they simply fix the sled and try again the next day. Max and Marla continue to face challenges but each day they continue to tackle them. Will they succeed? Maybe, but not in the way you may anticipate. That is the beauty of this sweet story!

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The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats: In this classic, a young boy wakes up to discover snow has fallen during the night. He goes outside to fully experience the first snowfall of winter, and as he plays, his eyes open to the wonder and possibility of the new world at his fingertips, for everything changes when draped in a blanket of soft white.  

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Brave Irene, by William Steig: Steig's sweet story from the 1980s is a wonderful testament to the power of perseverance and the things we do for love. When Irene's mother, a dressmaker, falls ill, she is unable to deliver a dress she made for the duchess before an important ball. So Irene takes it upon herself to deliver this dress, but she must battle the bitter cold, tons of snow and howling winds to get there. Irene almost gives up. But she braves the elements and her perseverance is rewarded greatly. A classic!

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Wolf in the Snow, by Matt Cordell: In this wordless Caldecott award winner, a girl in a red coat braves a harsh snowy day on her way home from school. As she walks, she comes across a lost and scared wolf pup. The girl befriends the pup and what follows is her journey through the sting of winter to return the pup to its family. She travels long and far though. So long and so far, in fact, that she loses her way. How will she ever get home? The emotion conveyed in every one of these stunning illustrations is simply exquisite.

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Waiting for Snow, by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Renata Liwska: Badger is a bit impatient - he can’t wait one more second for snow! Hedgehog tries to explain that snow will happen in due time, but Badger just can’t wait! The animals use their most creative tricks to bring on the snow, like tossing pebbles at the sky and sifting powdered sugar off the roof, but alas, the tricks don’t work. Yet one morning after a slumber party, the animals wake up to discover a perfect winter wonderland.  Absolutely love these adorable illustrations!

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Blizzard, by John Rocco: Blizzard is a fabulous picture book based on the author’s real life experience during the infamous blizzard of 1978 which brought fifty-three inches of snow to Rocco’s Rhode Island town. Beginning with just a few flakes and ending with mounds as high as stop signs that kept him from opening his front door, Blizzard tells the story of a transformative snowfall, including the magic, the anxiety, and the tremendous relief at seeing the first snow plows break through the drifts.

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First Snow, by Bomi Park: A modern day version of The Snowy Day, this is the quiet story of a young girl who wakes up to the first snowfall of the year. The child goes outside to play, making snow angels and snowmen, and as she plays, she discovers the wonder and awesome simplicity that snow brings to her world.

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The Wish Tree, by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Chris Turnham: Though Charles is desperate to find a wish tree, his brother and sister try to tell him there is no such thing. Yet Charles is determined and sets out through the snow on a journey to find one. With his trusty sled Boggan and a song in his heart, Charles discovers the enchantment of winter and the wonder of wishing.  

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Toys Meet Snow, by Emily Jenkins and Paul Zelinsky: When their Little Girl goes away for winter vacation, StingRay, Lumphy the buffalo and their friend Plastic, a red ball, head outside to experience their first snow day. The three take part in traditional snow activities, making hilarious hypotheses about the world around them and relishing in the warmth their friendship provides. There’s nothing better for children than reading about toys that come to life!

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Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal: Over the snow, the world is white and quiet. But under the snow is a world of magic, with a multitude of animals staying hidden from harm and making homes for the winter. In this beautiful work of nonfiction, children will learn about the subnivean zone -- the area between the snowpack and the ground -- and the way animals adapt during the harshest of winter days.

Which of the above stories are your favorite books about snow? What would you add to the list? Let us know on our Facebook page! And make sure you are following us on Instagram and Twitter, too!

Did you like this post? Yay! We think you will love these as well - make sure to check them out! Favorite Books to Spark Your Child’s Imagination, Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018 and Favorite Picture Books of 2018.

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Picture Books About LOVE!

Looking for awesome picture books about love? Here you go!

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It's almost Valentine's Day! Can I be honest with you guys for a minute? If I told you I’m head over heels in love with February 14th, I’d totally be lying. Flashback to 1994, and you would see a lanky girl with frizzy hair, a mouth full of braces and an elephant-sized backpack weighing her shoulders down to the ground as she walked the halls of a Miami high school. Um, that would be me. I always looked on — partly with awe, partly with envy — while the so-called “pretty” girls pranced around like human floral shops, their pink and red heart balloons bopping in the air atop bouquets of roses and carnations. And so it was that I began to rebel against the day, wearing black every Valentine’s day thereafter, telling all who would listen that it was absurd to have a holiday forcing us to say I love you, when it really should be said to those we care about all the time. Angst, anyone?!

Ok, ok. Before you exit out of this blog post, I get it. I’m a mom now, and yes, it’s fun to shower my kids with love and special treats on Valentine’s Day. But, more importantly, whether you love it or whether you rebel against it like I used to, Valentine’s Day does present us with perfect opportunity to talk to our kids about the ways in which we express affection and show others we care. What is love, anyway? What does it mean to love someone or something? How should love make us feel?

These are big questions, and they don’t always have the easiest answers. After all, sometimes love makes us feel like the sun is shining only for us, but other times, that love can be so overwhelming (or unrequited) that it brings us to tears. It is no wonder that children have such a hard time understanding what is going on in their little heads when one single emotion can affect us in such profoundly different ways.

So how do I celebrate Valentine’s Day with my boys now? As our worlds turn various shades of posy pink and radiant red, we like to celebrate by sharing some heart-filled books with messages that actually transcend Valentine’s Day. Any book that honors love in its purest form are fair game, books we can read, enjoy and contemplate all year round. This February 14th, you’ll no doubt find us snuggled together on the couch and reading fun and quirky stories about it means to love and be loved. Here are some of our favorite books -- the huggy kind, the kissy kind, the self-love kind, and -- my personal favorite -- the love is love is love kind.  Enjoy!

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Love, Z, by Jessie Sima: We adore this new release about a robot who is trying to understand a message he finds in a bottle. “Love, Beatrice,” the message says. But what is love? And who is Beatrice? As the robot journeys to find the answers to his questions, he discovers that love actually surrounds him all the time — he just never knew the right word to explain how he felt. Children will simply adore the idea that sometimes love is hard to explain, but we know it when we feel it. So in LOVE with this one!

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Loved to Bits, by Teresa Heapy and Katie Cleminson: Do your children have a stuffie that goes on adventures with them every day? Is that stuffie chewed and tattered and torn, but still your kiddo’s most prized possession? This is a whimsical and tender story about a boy and his beloved bear, Stripy Ted, who weather all kinds of journeys together. And when Stripy Ted loses a leg, or an eye, or yet his other leg - the boy still thinks he’s just right. A beautiful ode to your child’s favorite toy!

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Robot in Love, by T.L. Mc. Beth: Robot’s smitten. He has fallen in love with someone special. Someone shiny and special. And he will stop at nothing to win her attention. But can he keep his circuits from overheating and find the courage to tell her how he feels? This one has a twist ending you won’t see coming, and we laughed about it for days!

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Worm Loves Worm, by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato: What happens when two worms fall in love and want to get married? Which worm will wear the dress and which will wear the tuxedo? On second thought, if worm loves worm -- why should anything else matter? This fabulous story is without a doubt Happily Ever Elephants' favorite book about love. For our full review of Worm Loves Worm, click here!

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This is not a Valentine, by Carter Higgins and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins: This is a tender story of a little boy navigating his first crush. It’s not about the trite things kids (or adults, for that matter!) think they should give someone to show their love- but instead those precious, unique things children do that, when viewed through a little one's eyes, become magical and meaningful. This heartfelt book is so accessible to children, illustrating that love is composed of those tiny actions we take to show someone we care about how much they brighten our world. For our full review of This is Not a Valentine, click here!

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Love Is, by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane: A little girl learns what it means to love as she cares for her new pet. Her duckling requires a lot as he grows, needing constant attention from the girl. She hugs him closely and cares for him with everything she has… but eventually, it is time to let go. This is a tender beauty for any child caring for a pet - and for those who need a gentle reminder that sometimes, when we love something, we have to set it free.

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Love, by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff: Stacy McAnulty does it again with her newest book, Love, a companion to Beautiful and Brave. We love the way this book explores the concept of love, using illustrations that surprise and delight while also shattering those trite and conventional ideas of how we showcase affection to those we love. We adore McAnulty’s work, and we are just as thrilled with her latest book as we were with her others. (For our review of Beautiful, a book we believe should be in every child’s collection, click here!)

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When an Elephant Falls in Love, by Davide Cali, illustrated by Alice Lotti: When an elephant falls in love, he experiences many of the same emotions as the rest of us: he's giddy with joy and weak with anticipation.  He's left feeling equal parts shy and bold, and sometimes a little bit foolish too.  There's nothing like first love!

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Loving Hands, by Tony Johnson and illustrated by Amy June Bates: If you are a parent or a guardian, I dare you to read this without crying! In this beautiful ode to the love shared between a mother and her son, readers see how the tiniest of life’s moments are always grounded in love and reassurance. Though the boy continually reaches for his mother’s hand as he grows, time eventually passes and he becomes the one offering affection and support to his mother. A tender, gentle beauty.

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I Heart You, by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright: A beautiful tribute to the incomparable connection between a parent and child, this is a lyrical and tender exploration of the ways in which a parent's love can both encourage and reassure.  A perfect gift for expecting parents! 

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What do You Love About You, by Karen Lechelt: We are all individuals, and as each and every one of us has our own unique attributes, we all have something to celebrate! This book is a perfect reminder that each of us is special in our own way, and it encourages kids to ask themselves "what do I love about me?!"

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Hug Machine, by Scott Campbell: The title says it all -- no one can resist the hug machine! He's really good at hugging.  So good, in fact, that you will be amazed at all the little things we never think to hug but really enjoy a good dose of affection. Pure joy!

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Hedgehugs, by Steve Wilson, illustrated by Lucy Tapper: Hoarce and Hattie do everything together.  Well, almost everything.  Hard as they try, the hedgehogs just can't find a way to hug -  their sharp spikes always get in the way! The two set off on a mission to figure out how to hug - and it will undoubtedly make your little ones giggle with glee.   

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All Kinds of Kisses, by Heather Swain, illustrated by Steven Henry: How do giraffes kiss? What about hummingbirds? If your little ones love hitting you up for smooches, they will love reading this book with you -- and trying to imitate the animals' actions. This is always a winner in our house, ending up with my boys rolling on the floor in fits of giggles as they try to mimic all of the animal kisses.

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Love Monster, by Rachel Bright: Poor googly-eyed love monster just can't find a way to fit in with all the cuddly folks of Cutesville. This causes Love Monster to set out on a journey in search of someone to love him just the way he is.  Reminding even the most jaded that love happens when you least expect it, this book is sure to leave you with a smile... and an open heart.

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I Love You, Stinky Face, by Lisa McCourt and illustrated by Cyd Moore: “Mommy, mommy, will you still love me if….” YES! Yes, I’ll still love you if… Have you heard these questions before? Then this book is a must. It’s silly, it’s wacky, but it drives home a very important point: a parent’s love is constant and unwavering, no matter the situation, no matter the stink! This one is a blast - an oldie but goodie!

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Love, by Matt De La Pena and Loren Long: This is a meditation on love- that transcendent, all encompassing, powerful emotion so integral to who we are as humans, an emotion so easy to feel but so difficult to adequately express in words. The prose is poetry in its purest form, the message is timeless, and the notion that love can be found in both the familiar and the unexpected is masterful. The stunning illustrations will be mirrors for kids worldwide. For our full review of Love, click here!

Did you like this post? We are so glad! Guess what else we LOVE? Snuggling up and reading incredible books with our little ones. Check out these awesome lists for more books we love! Favorite Bedtime Books, Favorite Books About Gratitude you can read all year long (not just Thanksgiving!), and Favorite Books About Friendship. And for the books we loved from last couple of years, check out Favorite Picture Books from 2018 and Favorite Picture Books from 2017!

Are you following us on social media? Make sure to check us out on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

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Touchdown! Our Favorite Children's Books About Sports!

If you want awesome children’s books about sports, you’ve come to the right place! Happily Ever Elephants has got your covered with the perfect books for your little sports fanatics.

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Pickle is sports obsessed. And when I say obsessed, I mean that he turns any object, article of clothing, or piece of paper into a ball and will spend his free time kicking it, throwing it or tossing it. He has perfected the art of being a quarterback, running back and wide receiver all at the same time, catching his own “passes” and running to a goal of his choosing for a touchdown (and yes, it’s as comical to watch as it sounds!) He has also perfected his dribbling, has one heck of a lay up, and is known around school as little Lebron. And, um, yeah. He’s only in kindergarten. And his Mom (hi!) is the most uncoordinated klutz you’ll ever meet.

Not gonna lie - Pickle loves to read, but often times he ONLY wants to read about sports. So, in honor of Super Bowl Sunday, here are some of our favorite sports books — both picture books and early readers, fiction and nonfiction. It’s an eclectic collection for sure, but in our house, each of these is a gem. And guess what? These books have taught ME a ton about Pickle’s favorite games too, and now I love being able to talk with him about all things basketball and football. We hope you enjoy these books as much as we do! And without further ado, here are our favorite children’s books about sports!

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Favorite Children’s Books About Sports: Fun Stories

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Don’t Throw it to Mo (the Mo Jackson series), by David Adler and illustrated by Sam Ricks: These are hands down Pickle’s favorites. The Mo stories are part of the Penguin Young Readers for Progressing Readers series, and, though I used to read them to Pickle, he can now read most of them to me! There are four books so far, with each pertaining to a small boy named Mo as he struggles — and then succeeds - in playing different sports (football, baseball, basketball and soccer). We love how Mo never lets his tiny statute get in the way of his big passion for sport, always finding a way to shine! This is a must have series for little sports lovers!

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Football with Dad, by Frank Berrios and illustrated by Brian Biggs: This is a sweet story about a boy and his dad who can’t wait for football Sundays! Each Sunday, they wake up, put on their jerseys, watch the big games on tv, and then go outside to play some of their own. Cute and fun for your littlest readers.

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Randy Rileys Really Big Hit, by Chris Van Dusen: We adore all of Van Dusen’s books, but this one just takes the cake! Randy is a boy that is obsessed with two things — science and baseball — but he’s much better at the former than the latter. When he sees through his telescope that a giant fireball is headed straight for his town, he’s got to find a way to hit that ball out of the park - and save his neighborhood from danger. Will he succeed? This one is just so much fun!

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The Field, by Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara: A group of children assemble on a field and get ready for a game of soccer. They have their bol (ball), soulye (shoes) and goal (goal), and just like that, they are off! They kick the ball back and forth, passing and running and jumping until the skies burst open and the ground is deluged with rain.  But do they stop? No! They just take their shoes off and keep on keeping on. It's only when their Mamas call for them that the game is paused, they quit for the night and go home to their beds where they dream about futbol, friends and the field. 

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She’s Got This, by Laurie Hernandez: Calling all gymnasts! This is a new picture book by Olympian Laurie Hernandez about a young girl named Zoe who wants to fly like the gymnasts she sees on television. But then she goes to class and falls off the balance beam — and it’s a lot scarier than she anticipated. This is the story of how one child must find her courage and face her anxieties about falling if she wants to learn how to fly. It is perfect for all kids who have to learn to conquer their fears so they can then conquer their dreams!

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The Littlest Leaguer, by Syd Hoff: Harold is the smallest player in the baseball league, and no matter how hard he tries, he’s just no good at the game! He can’t catch a ball, he runs too slow, and he spends more time on the field than on the bench. But one day, during a big game, little Harold has the chance to make a big, big play.

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Here Comes the Strikeout, by Leonard Kessler: This is an oldie but goodie about one boy who is so good at baseball — except when it comes to actually hitting the ball! He can run, slide and catch, but he just can’t hit. Or can he? With a lot of hard work and perseverance, Bobby may find he has what it takes to get a home run. We love this awesome story to teach growth mindset!

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Take Me Out to the Yakyu, by Aaron Meshon: We all know that baseball is a great American sport, but did you know that it is also beloved in Japan? This is the story of one boy who goes to baseball games with his grandfathers on both sides of the world, one in America and one in Japan, and it takes readers through the awesome cultural traditions in each country. The bright pictures and fun text make this book a home run!

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This is It, by Daria Peoples-Riley: If you have a dancer at home, or any child who gets anxious about an audition or try out, this book is awesome! A young girl is nervous for her ballet audition, and it is the child’s shadow who comes to her rescue. Taking the girl on an adventure through the city, her shadow helps her find confidence in her self, her body, her movement and her skills. And then? Then she shines.


Favorite Children’s Books About Sports: Informational Books and Anthologies

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Sports Illustrated Kids: My First Book of Football and My First Book of Basketball: If you have little sports lovers at home who want to learn everything they can about how to play different games, these books for rookies are the best! With fun facts, great illustrations, and easy to understand explanations, this series so perfectly helps passionate players learn more about their favorite games. Though we love the Football and Basketball books in our house, the series also contains fantastic Soccer, Hockey and Baseball editions!

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For the Love of Basketball from A to Z, by Frederick C. Klein and illustrated by Mark W. Anderson: This book is so cool! If you have a basketball obsessed kiddo in your house, she will love this guide. Each letter of the alphabet represents a different basketball hero, including Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Through witty rhyme and beautiful illustrations, this ode to basketball greats gives fun facts in a unique way.

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Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win, by Rachel Ignotofsky: This book is just fabulous! Featuring female athletes from the 1800s to the present day who play all kinds of sports, this anthology is a must have. From Billie Jean King to Simone Biles, Kristi Yamaguchi to Mia Hamm, this collection brings both well known and lesser known athletes — and sports— to light. Its beautiful, informational, and oh-so-fun!

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Goodnight Football, by Michael Dahl and illustrated by Christina Forshay: For your young fans of the game, this is an adorable rhyming bedtime book that celebrates all things football. It introduces kids to football vocabulary, diverse players, and even good sportsmanship. This was Pickle’s choice of a bedtime book for months! There are also baseball, soccer and hockey versions!

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Slam Dunk!: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Basketball, by The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids: Oh my goodness. Pickle will sit and pore over these pages for hours. This is not one for young kids to read on their own, but I had to include it because it is so well loved in our home. The photographs, the stats, the players — he can’t get enough! Filled with lists like the biggest players to the smallest, the best teams of all time and the greatest dunkers, any basketball fan will fall in love with the facts and trivia in this awesome book!

Favorite Children’s Books About Sports: Biographies

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Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, by Lesa Cline-Ransom and illustrated by James E. Ransome: If you know kids who can’t stop, won’t stop when it comes to tennis or any sport, they will absolutely love this beautifully illustrated story of tennis stars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams. The dynamic sisters are two of the greatest athletes of all time, but they didn’t become champions without dedication, talent, and a whole lot of heart. A wonderful story of perseverance and a testament to their tenacity and love for their sport.

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Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Bryan Collier: My students fell hard for this fascinating true story of Ernie Barnes, a young black man who loved art but took to playing football in order to make a living. After all, the south was segregated when Barnes grew up, and he knew there was no future in painting - there were no black artists in the museums! Nonetheless, despite his career as a professional football player, Barnes never stopped yearning to be an artist. He eventually conquered his dreams, painting for the NFL and influencing a generation of artists and illustrators.

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Salt in his Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream, by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: Did you know that when Michael Jordan was just a boy, he almost gave up on his basketball dreams for fear that he wouldn’t be tall enough? Thankfully, his parents told him that what it took to be a real champion was not height, but patience, perseverance, and lots and lots of effort. This is the story of family and faith — and how one boy’s family helped him achieve his dreams.

I Am Jackie Robinson best Picture Book Biographies Athletes Jackie Robinson.jpg

I am Jackie Robinson (Ordinary People Change the World), by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulous: Jackie Robinson loved sports, and he was a fantastic athlete. But he lived before the Civil Rights Movement, and he was not allowed to play on the best teams because of the color of his skin. Jackie was undeterred though, believing in his heart that the best sports teams were those that transcended race and included people of every color playing together. Due to his bravery, Jackie became the first black player in Major League Baseball, and his courage changed the face of African Americans in sports, paving the way for black athletes to play on all teams.


Did you like this post? We think you will love these, too! Favorite Picture Books About Perseverance, Favorite Picture Books About Courage, Favorite Non-Fiction Books of 2018.

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PIN 2 Our Very Favorite Kids' Books About Sports! Includes books about basketball, football, baseball, ballet, gymnastics and more!.jpg



















American Library Association announces its 2019 Youth Media Awards!

Caldecott! Newbery!! Geisel!! OH MY! We are so excited about the 2019 ALA Youth Media Awards that were announced this week! It’s like the Oscars of children’s literature, with incredible books in all genres celebrated. Just like the Academy Awards (and Emmys, and Golden Globes, and Grammys), some years you are thrilled with the awards, and some years you simply are not. But this year? This year was an OUTSTANDING YEAR! I watched the awards from my desk, furiously messaging with my kid lit friends, and I literally screamed with delight at so many of the announcements. Though many, many books that touched our hearts were not award winners, SO MANY BOOKS WE LOVED this year have authors and illustrators who are jumping for joy tonight, their lives changed forever. We are so excited!

Here is an list of some of the major awards (with a link to the complete list on the ALA website at the bottom), together with affiliate links, links to our blog reviews and any Happily Ever Elephants’ Lists on which the award winners may appear!

Without further ado, here are the winners!!!!

ALA Award winners 2019 including the Newbery, Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Winners.jpg

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

Mercy Suarez Changes Gears 2019 Newbery Winner Best Novels for Kids.jpg

WINNER: Mercy Suarez Changes Gears, by Meg Medina. I realized this afternoon that this one has been sitting on my desk for months - cannot WAIT to read it!

Night Diary Newbery Honor Best Chapter Books for Kids.jpg

HONOR: The Night Diary, by Veera Hirandandani. The Night Diary was on our Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018 list!

The Book of Boy Newbery Honor Best Chapter Books for kids

HONOR: The Book of Boy, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Ordered 2 copies today - one for me and one for our school library!


Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for Children

Hello Lighthouse Caldecott Award Winner Best Picture Books for Kids.jpg


WINNER: Hello Lighthouse, by Sophie Blackall. A stunner!

Alma and How She Got Her Name Caldecott Honor Best Picture Books for Kids

HONOR: Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal. Check out our review here! This book made our Favorite Picture Books of 2018 list!

A Big Mooncake for Little Star Caldecott Honor Best Picture Books for Kids.jpg

HONOR: A Big Mooncake for Little Star, by Grace Lin. This book made our list of Favorite Bedtime Books!

The Rough Patch Caldecott Honor Best Picture Books for Kids.jpg

HONOR: The Rough Patch, by Brian Lies. We LOVE this one but haven’t yet reviewed it - it will be on an upcoming list for awesome books about life transitions.

Thank You, Omu! Caldecott Honor Best Picture Books for Kids

HONOR: Thank You, Omu!, by Oge Mora. Check out our review here! This book also made our Favorite Picture Books of 2018 list, and our list of Favorite Books About Gratitude!

ALA Award Winning Books including Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, Geisel and more

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

This award is given to the most distinguished beginning reader book.

Fox the Tiger Geisel Award Winner best books for beginning readers

WINNER: Fox the Tiger, by Corey R. Tabor.

The Adventures of Otto: See Pip Flap Geisel Honor best book for beginning reader

HONOR: The Adventures of Otto: See Pip Flap, by David Milgrim.

Fox and Chick Geisel Honor Best book for beginning reader

HONOR: Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories, by Sergio Ruzzier.

King and Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth Best book for beginning reader

HONOR: King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth, by Dori Hillestad Butler and illustrated by Nancy Meyers.

TIger vs Nightmare Geisel Honor Best book for beginning reader

HONOR: Tiger vs. Nightmare, by Emily Tetri.

Coretta Scott King Book Awards - Author

This award recognizes African-American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults.

A Few Red Drops Coretta Scott King.jpg

WINNER (AUTHOR): A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, by Claire Hartfield.

Finding Langston Coretta Scott King Honor

HONOR (AUTHOR): Finding Langston, by Lesa Cline-Ransome.

The Parker Inheritance Coretta Scott King Honor Best Chapter Books for Kids

HONOR (AUTHOR): The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson. This book made our Favorite Middle Grade Novels of 2018 list!

The Season of Styx Malone Coretta Scott King Honor Best Chapter Books for Kids

HONOR (AUTHOR): The Season of Styx Malone, by Kekla Magoon.

Coretta Scott King Book Awards - Illustrator

The Stuff of Stars Coretta Scott King

WINNER (ILLUSTRATOR): The Stuff of Stars, illustrated by Ekua Holmes and written by Marion Dane Bauer.

HIdden Figures Coretta Scott King Honor Book Best Books for Kids

HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, illustrated by Laura Freeman and written by Margot Lee Shetterly. This book made our list of Favorite Books for Black History Month!

Let the Children March Coretta Scott King Award Best Picture Books for Kids

HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Let the Children March, illustrated by Frank Morrison and written by Monica Clark-Robinson. This book made our list of Favorite Books for Black History Month!

Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop Coretta Scott King Honor Best Picture Books for Kids.jpg

HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and written by Alice Faye Duncan.

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award

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WINNER (AUTHOR): Monday’s Not Coming, by Tiffany D. Jackson

Thank You, Omu!.jpg

WINNER (ILLUSTRATOR): Thank You, Omu!, by Oge Mara. Check out our review here! This book also made our Favorite Picture Books of 2018 list, and our list of Favorite Books About Gratitude!

Pura Belpre Awards

This award honors Latinx writers and illustrators whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.

Dreamers Yuyi Morales Pura Belpre Award Winner Best Picture Books for Kids

WINNER: Dreamers, by Yuyi Morales. This award made our list of Favorite Picture Books from 2018!

Islandborn Leo Esponosa Pura Belpre Honor Best Picture Books for Kids Latinx

HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Islandborn, illustrated by Leo Espinosa and written by Junot Diaz. Check out our review here!

When Angels Sing The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana Pura Belpre Honor

HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana, illustrated by Jose Ramirez and written by Michael Mahin.

Stonewall Book Award

This award is given annual to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love Stonewall Book Award best books about the LGBT experience

WINNER: Julian is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love. This book made our list of Favorite Picture Books for 2018!

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake Best books honoring LGBT experience Stonewall Honor Award.jpg

HONOR: Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake. Check out our review here! This book made our Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018 list!

Picture Us in the Light

HONOR: Picture Us in the Light, by Kelly Loy Gilbert.

Sydney Taylor Awards

This award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.

All of a Kind Family Hanukkah Sydney Taylor Award Best Book for Younger Readers about the Jewish Experience

WINNER (YOUNGER READERS): All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinskey.

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier, Sydney Taylor Award Winner Best Books for kids about the Jewish experience

WINNER (OLDER READERS): Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier. Check out our review here! This made our list of Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018!

What the Night Sings Vesper Stamper Sydney Taylor Award Best Book for Teens Honoring the Jewish Experience

WINNER (TEEN READERS): What the Night Sings, by Vesper Stamper.

Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature

This award promotes Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and is awarded based on literary and artistic merit.

Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat best book promoting Asian Pacific American culture and heritage

WINNER (PICTURE BOOK): Drawn Together, written by Minh Le and illustrated by Dan Santat. This book is part of our Favorite Picture Books of 2018 list!

Front Desk Best Books for Kids.jpg

WINNER (CHILDREN’S LITERATURE CATEGORY): Front Desk, by Kelly Yang. Check out our review here! This book made our Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018 list.



Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

This award goes to the most distinguished informational book for children.

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies SIbert Informational Book Award nonfiction books for kids.jpg
Camp Panda Helping Cubs Return to the Wild Sibert Honor Informational Book for Kids nonfiction.jpg

HONOR: Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild, by Catherine Thimmesh.

Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and The War of Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America Sibert Honor informational book for kids nonfiction.jpg
The Unwanted Stories of the Syrian Refugees Sibert Honor nonfiction for kids.jpg
We are Grateful Otsaliheliga Sibert Honor Informational nonfiction book for kids.jpg

HONOR: We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, by Traci Sorell and illustrated by Frane Lessac. This book made our list of Favorite Books About Gratitude!

When Angels Sing.jpg

HONOR: When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana, by Michael Mahin and illustrated by Jose Ramirez.


Schneider Family Book Award

This award goes to a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience.

Rescue and Jessica Schenider Family Book Award Disability experience.jpg

WINNER (YOUNG CHILDREN): Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes and illustrated by Scott Magoon.

The Remember Balloons Schneider Family Book Award for kids disbaility experience.jpg

HONOR (YOUNG CHILDREN): The Remember Balloons, by Jessie Oliveros, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte.

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle Schneider Family Book Award disability experience.jpg

WINNER (MIDDLE GRADE): The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, by Leslie Connor.

The Collectors Schneider Family Book Award disability experience books for kids.jpg

HONOR (MIDDLE GRADE): The Collectors, by Jacqueline West.

Anger is a Gift Schneider Family Book Award books for kids about the disability experience.jpg

WINNER (TEENS): Anger is a Gift, by Mark Oshiro.

Dont call me Crazy 33 voices mental health Schneider Family Book Award disability experience books for teens.jpg

HONOR (TEENS): (Don’t) Call me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health, by Kelly Jensen.


Congratulations to all the winners!

For the complete list of awards, including the Michael L. Printz Award, CLICK HERE!

ALA Award winners including Caldecott Newbery Coretta Scott King Pura Belpre Geisel and more




































































Children’s Bedtime Story Books that will Have Your Kids Eager to Get in Bed!

Looking for fantastic children's bedtime story books? We’ve got you covered right here with the very best goodnight stories for kids! Enter and find all kinds of books to bid your little ones goodnight, from funny bedtime stories to happy ones, from books to help kids overcome fears of the dark to dealing with the things that go bump in the night. Come on in!

Looking for fantastic children's bedtime story books? We’ve got you covered right here with the very best goodnight stories for kids! Enter and find all kinds of books to bid your little ones goodnight, from funny bedtime stories for kids to happy bedtime stories, from books to help kids overcome fears of the dark to dealing with the things that go bump in the night. Come on in!

Bedtime. I don’t know an adult that doesn’t love it.  In our exceedingly frenetic and fast paced world, bedtime is so often the only time of the day when I can finally be quiet.  It’s when I can be mindful and present with my breath, when I can think about and reflect upon my day, and when I can surrender to the comfort of my bed and the hush of darkness. I love when the only sound I hear is the ceiling fan whirring above my head!

If only children felt the same way about going to sleep every night! Unfortunately, though, if your house is anything like mine, the sheer call of “bedtime!” inspires nothing but madness.  The word alone can conjure so many frightening emotions for a child. For my boys, it’s loneliness. The idea of being alone, confined to a bed in a dark room, is such an uncomfortable feeling for them, not even all the stuffies, lovies and comfort objects in the world can soothe it.  It’s the reason my boys keep asking for water, for one more hug, for one more trip to the bathroom. They simply don’t want to be by themselves.

For others, its fear. Fear of the dark. Fear of something in the closet. Fear of something under the bed. How many times has your child asked you to turn the light back on? Called you out of your room because they heard a frightening noise in theirs? Asked you to look in their closet, or in their drawers, or in their toy box just one more time to make sure the coast is clear? The fear can be crippling, and it will undoubtedly have your kids dashing from their rooms like marathon runners and catapulting into your bed like pole vaulters.

For a select few, though, bedtime undoubtedly inspires a quiet journey to the depths of the imagination. The call for bedtime means jumping into a safe haven of blankets and pillows and the soft, comforting cadence of a loved one’s voice reading a wondrous story.  There’s nothing better than snuggling under the covers, close to a caregiver, as he or she opens the pages of a crisp picture book and begins to read a story that fills a child with laughter or awe. This is what we want for all of our kids, and this is what we as parents should strive for at bedtime.

But how do we make this happen? It’s easier said than done - trust me, I know.  But bedtime stories can help tackle some of these common childhood anxieties and give kids the courage they need to get to sleep calmly. In addition to the significant developmental benefits that reading aloud with children provides, sharing stories with your little ones at bedtime can help soothe their nerves and reinforce bonds between children and their loved ones, making them feel safer and more secure when going to bed. So what are you waiting for? Grab a hold of these books, snuggle up with your kids, and get reading.

The following stories are ones we love in our home, books that ease my boys’ nerves through thrills, wonder, and good old fashioned laughter. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!
Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

Sleep Like a Tiger, by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski: A quietly magical bedtime book about a girl whose parents insist she get ready for bed even though she declares she is wide awake.  Once under her covers, the child asks her parents how particular animals sleep at night. Through gentle prose, her parents describe the animals’ sleeping habits, which the little girl then mimics once she is alone in her bedroom. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the child falls sound asleep. This story speaks perfectly to little ones who want nothing more than to stay awake when it's time for bed. For our full review of Sleep Like a Tiger, click here!

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

Orion and the Dark, by Emma Yarlett: Darkness personified- it's a brilliant concept.  Yarlett takes darkness, something many kids are terrified of, and gives him a cuddly frame, a timid but warm smile, and a gentle hand to hold. She shows our little ones that the dark can wrap you up and squeeze you in the most perfect hug, and that the unknown and scary expanse of the night isn't so frightening after all once you explore it with a friend. To simply say this book is "special" doesn't do it justice; it leads the pack when it comes to stories for kids afraid of the dark. For our full review of Orion and the Dark, click here!

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

It Is Not Time for Sleeping, by Lisa Graff and illustrated by Lauren Castillo: The premise of the story is simple- a little boy is staunchly resisting his bedtime. Yet even though he becomes more stubborn in his convictions as he moves through each part of his habitual bedtime routine he eventually - finally!- succumbs to his fatigue. Children will feel an immediate connection to the child in the book as well as his familiar routine, both of which create a sense of comfort for little ones as they snuggle under their covers. For our full review of It is Not Time for Sleeping, click here!

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

Shhh! This Book is Sleeping, by Cedric Ramadier and Vincent Bourgeau:  It is a rare child that likes to be told to brush his teeth, go to the bathroom one last time, and get into bed.  But this interactive bedtime book allows the kids to be the "boss." It enables the reader to make sure the book has completed its bedtime routine, that it is warm enough, and that it gets a good hug and kiss before turning out the light. What I love most about this simple and quick read is that it gives little ones power in a situation where they often feel totally powerless. For our full review of Shhh! This Book is Sleeping, click here!

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

A Big Mooncake for Little Star, by Grace Lin: In this whimsical book, a 2019 Caldecott Honor, Little Star cannot resist the great Mooncake her mama bakes her - but she simply cannot resist a nibble! This wonderful book, a modern day myth, tells an enchanting -- and totally delightful -- story about the different phases of the moon.

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

Please Bring Balloons, by Lindsey Ward: A note, a carousel and a polar bear. Is it a dream? A fantastical adventure? We are still wondering—and that’s so much a part of why we love it. Both artistically beautifully and perfectly fanciful, we adore this captivating story! For our full review of Please Bring Balloons, click here!

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey,  by Emily Winfield Martin: A lyrical tale with one of those perfectly rhythmic cadences that will gently lull little ones to sleep.  This book invites kids to close their eyes so they can discover their own dream animals -- and find out what adventures their animals will take them on as they soar through the stars.  

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

Don’t Blink!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and David Roberts: Oh, how I love this ingenious bedtime book, and I have no doubt your kids will too! Can your little ones rise to the challenge and refrain from blinking as they turn these pages? I guarantee they will do everything in their power to pass the test however they can, because if they can get to the end of the book without blinking, they win a very coveted prize— they can avoid bedtime! This one is a must.

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

I Need My Monster, by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam: This book is guaranteed to get your kids laughing about ogres and beasts, rather than fearing them. When Ethan looks under his bed to check on his monster, Gabe, Ethan finds a note from Gabe instead.  What does it say? Gabe has gone fishing and will be back in a week! How on earth will Ethan get to bed without his monster’s heavy breathing lulling him to sleep? This book is a hoot and will help your kids turn the tables on their monster woes.

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

The Goodnight Train, by June Sobel and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith: All aboard for dreamland! If your kids love trains or cookies, or trains and cookies, then they want to make sure to climb aboard the Goodnight Train, one that soars past mermaids and ice cream clouds and has heaps and heaps of cookies on board.  This was on reread in our house for a good year, as my children loved being rocked and rolled to bed.

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

The Big Bed, by Bunmi Laditan and illustrated by Tom Knight: A young girl has no interest in sleeping in her own bed in her own room (*ahem* nope, can't relate to that one at all!) So what does she do? She comes up with the perfect solution to her problem: she sleeps in her parents’ bed and gifts her dad a camping cot, attempting to convince him why he should no longer be sleeping in his own big bed where he belongs. From the girl's well thought out arguments to the hilarious illustrations, The Big Bed will have your kids laughing from start to finish. For our full review of The Big Bed, click here!

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

Night Out, by Daniel Miyares: This book is exquisite! The words are sparse, but the illustrations are rich with detail and emotion, telling stories upon stories in and of themselves. A young boy at a boarding school finds himself friendless and alone, but when he gets ready for bed one night, he finds a mysterious invitation. The boy then departs on a magical, mystical journey where he befriends dancing animals and attends a glorious celebration.  He returns to his room with the perfect story to tell to a new friend.

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

The House in the Night, by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes: If you love Goodnight Moon (or, perhaps, if you are in the camp of people who do not like it at all!) then you must check out this elegant book immediately. Gentle and lyrical prose inspired by cumulative poetry combines with exquisite scratchboard illustrations to make this story an absolute winner. This book is bedtime perfection, a quiet good night book sure to lull your child to sleep with its dreamlike narrative and pictures.

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney: This is one we recite by heart in our house, a classic story about a little llama who gets himself in a tizzy at bedtime. When baby Llama settles into bed, he begins to worry as soon as his beloved Mama leaves his room. How will he handle the dark on his own? Before long, Llama’s whimpers and worry turn into hollers, and soon it escalates into an all out Llama Drama!

Stop that Yawn! Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

Stop That Yawn!, by Caron Levis and illustrated by LeUyen Pham: Gaby is over bedtime. Yawns and snores are such big bores! So she decides to take some action and leave bedtime behind, setting out with her bewildered granny to find a place where beds are for bouncing, ice cream is available round the clock, and there is no more hushing and shushing. But despite her best efforts, even poor Gaby realizes that sometimes, it is just a bit to difficult to stop that yawn!

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

The Night Box, by Louise Greig and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay: When a child opens the Night Box, day slips into evening as darkness unfurls and stars light up the sky. He is the holder of the key that opens this wondrous box, the one that breathes out night and breathes in the day. What a wonderfully imaginative and unexpected story about one child who holds the key (literally) to our world’s most natural cycle. For our full review of The Night Box, click here!


Which of the above stories are your favorite bedtime books? What would you add to the list? Let us know on our Facebook page! And make sure you are following us on Instagram and Twitter, too!

Did you like this post? Yay! We think you will love these as well - make sure to check them out! Favorite Books to Spark Your Child’s Imagination, Picture Books to Help You Raise Kind Kids and Favorite Picture Books of 2018.

Children's Bedtime Story Books, including funny bedtime stories!

A Jewish Child, a Hateful Note, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Looking for great picture books about Martin Luther King, Jr. to read with children of all ages? Look no further.

In Honor of Martin Luther King, great picture books to celebrate the great man.jpg

I was in Mr. Terry’s seventh grade civics class when I found it. Just weeks away from my Bat Mitzvah, I walked into the crowded classroom, headed to my desk, and sat down to find a note waiting for me. It was a folded up piece of paper, and it had my name, Lauren, scribbled on the front. I remember smiling as I opened it up, because what kid doesn’t love getting notes, waiting with anticipation to discover the sender? But when the paper was spread out in front of me, I inhaled sharply. I vividly remember trying to fight back the tears that flooded my eyes, the fear that paralyzed my body. I recall my hands shaking as I tried desperately to catch my best friend’s attention, all while wondering which of my other classmates were laughing at me as I suffered.

What was inside this awful note? A crude, black swastika.

As a Jewish child, I grew up learning about the evils of religious persecution and racial discrimination, but this was the first time it hunted me down and stared me in the face, the first time I was personally affected by such despicable hatred. This experience left an indelible scar on my heart, right before the momentous day I was meant to rejoice at becoming a Jewish young woman. It was on this day I truly understood that people would engage in abhorrent behavior simply because they don’t like how you look or agree with what you believe.

As you know, sharing #booksforbetter has become a true passion of mine. I love sharing books that help us bridge divides and teach kids that we are all one and the same — all of us human beings with beating hearts and big dreams and a thirst to learn and grow. It has also become important to me to share books showcasing the dangers of hatred — and how love, communication and understanding can help assuage this dark stain on our world.

Here we are celebrating my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah last year. A Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah is a life cycle event in which a Jewish child comes of age and is recognized as having the same obligations as adults to observe the commandments.

Here we are celebrating my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah last year. A Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah is a life cycle event in which a Jewish child comes of age and is recognized as having the same obligations as adults to observe the commandments.

And so it is that I have always had a deep appreciation for stories about Martin Luther King, Jr. Every time I read about or watched his powerful “I have a dream” speech following that hateful act in civics class, I believed he was also speaking to me, a young Jewish girl seeking to understand why someone would want to hurt me because of my religion, just as people wanted to hurt him because of his skin color. I hoped his vision included a world where black and white children played together alongside children of all other races and religions, too. After all, one of the core tenets of Judaism is to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” a commandment which comes with no qualifications or asterisks. MLK’s words and brave actions in the face of extreme danger gave me hope at a time when I was terrified, hope that we would all — White, Black, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Gay, Straight, you name it — find a way to love one another wholly and unconditionally. His words continue to bring me hope today, especially in light of recent events in our country like the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the horrific murder of eleven Jews worshiping at Shabbat services in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

While many believe we have made significant progress both as a society and as a country, racial and religious discrimination still lurk behind dark corners. It is sickening — and thus vitally important that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy is taught to and celebrated by children around the globe. Why? Because MLK is a hero to us all, and his legacy will continue to motivate future generations to carry out his great vision. His mighty words can find a home within every person’s heart and soul. They have the ability to inspire each and every one of us to reject prejudice and strive for a society where equality, compassion and respect reign supreme.

I sincerely hope that if you do one thing on Monday, January 21st or during Black History Month this February, you read a story about Martin Luther King, Jr. with your children and students. There are phenomenal picture books about MLK’s life that can be discussed with kids of all ages, and I cannot stress how important it is to share this one lesson with the next generation: Hate is a learned behavior. Only when we listen to one another and embrace our glorious differences can we eradicate hate and replace it with love.

Books we love reading with kids of all ages to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr..jpg

We hope you enjoy these remarkable books as much as we do.

Be a King picture books about Martin LUther King.jpg

Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by James E. Ransome: I love reading this beautiful book with my youngest students, for it imparts all of the values MLK stood for, without going into the more painful details of his journey. This book encourages a new generation of young people to be kings by emulating MLK’s remarkable character traits and actions. The lovely illustrations show kids how they can reenact his teachings in their own lives by always standing up for peace, breaking the chains of ignorance, and stamping out hatred by putting a foot down and standing tall.

Martins big words picture books for kids.jpg

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier: Through his own famous quotes, this beautiful picture book brings MLK to life. Beginning with his life as a young boy and his vow to one day get “big words” like his father, to his death at a garbage worker’s strike, this biography is a fabulous introduction to one of the most prominent voices of the Civil Rights Movement. This is one of my favorite books to read with early elementary students, for its simple narrative that doesn’t stray from the gritty facts but hits all the right notes for younger readers. Age appropriate, powerful, and elegant.

I have a dream picture books about Martin Luther King Jr.jpg

I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: On August 28, 1963, MLK stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. during the March on Washington. It was there he delivered one of the most powerful speeches our nation has ever witnessed. His words from this monumental speech are paired with Nelson’s exquisite paintings, making this a magnificent book to be treasured, memorized and honored for generations to come.

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I am Martin Luther King, Jr., by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulous: We absolutely love the Ordinary People Change the World series for the way it tackles big stories and remarkable heroes in a kid-friendly, accessible manner. Through comic illustrations and word bubbles, this story gives voice to MLK as a child, then subsequently showcases his journey to changing the American landscape through peaceful protests and powerful words. This series is a favorite of my students.

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As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Herschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom, by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colon: We all know the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., a black boy who grew up to witness horrifying racial discrimination in America. He became a minister like his father before him, and subsequently rose to become one of the most visible and vital voices of the Civil Rights Movement. Abraham grew up years earlier in Europe, and as a Jewish man, he too, faced atrocious persecution. Abraham fled to America where he became a rabbi, and like MLK, he became a voice for equality. This is the story of how these two remarkable men came together as victims of discrimination, formed an unbreakable friendship, and used their voices to fight for peace and social justice. An extraordinary story, and a favorite to read to tweens.

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Did you like this post? Hooray! Make sure to check these out, too — we think you will love ‘em! Amazing Books for Black History Month, Ten Favorite Books to Evoke Change, and Twenty Picture Books About Amazing Women.














Amazing Picture Books for Black History Month

Looking for fabulous children’s books to celebrate Black History Month? Look no further, because Happily Ever Elephants has got you covered!

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Black History Month. It’s a celebration engrained in the fabric of our society, a month of learning and healing and remembering in our homes and schools. The national celebration was established around 1976, when President Gerald Ford decreed it an annual American observance. His goal? To honor the frequently overlooked or neglected accomplishments of Black women and men across America.

Throughout our lives, and most notably during our grade school years, many of us studied the groundbreaking — even radical —accomplishments of important social justice advocates such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. But African-Americans were not only leading the fight for civil rights. They were doing so much more to leave lasting and vital impacts on our world! Contributions by Black Americans on our society were - and continue to be - nothing short of phenomenal. Yet, they are so frequently ignored. From artists to engineers, dancers to doctors, the stories of Black Americans who tenaciously broke boundaries and challenged societal norms are not just inspiring, but necessary to our country’s beautiful, multi-layered tapestry. I am absolutely delighted that we are finally beginning to see these thrilling stories come to life through picture books.

While the children’s publishing industry has made progress over the last couple of years, it continues its tremendous push to bring diverse books of superior quality to the market. There is a concentrated effort to publish more representative stories, including more biographies of Black men and women highlighting their remarkable achievements. Though we still have significant work to do, the results are tangible. As our homes, schools, libraries and bookstores continually showcase these beautiful new books, the smiles that light up children’s faces when they find themselves in stories for the first time is nothing short of magical.

As we lead into Black History Month, Happily Ever Elephants is thrilled to share some of our favorite picture books. Below you’ll find several outstanding picture books on Martin Luther King, Jr, as well as numerous biographies about Black men and women whose determination and accomplishments have left indelible contributions on our country. And that’s not all. You’ll also find a moments and movements section, which contains numerous breathtaking stories about slavery, the fight for civil rights , and even music and space. Happy reading!

Commemorate Black History Month with this fabulous list of more than thirty picutre books about famous people, movements and moments.jpg

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

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I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: On August 28, 1963, MLK stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. during the March on Washington. It was there he delivered one of the most powerful speeches our nation has ever witnessed. His words from this monumental speech are paired with Nelson’s exquisite paintings, making this a magnificent book to be treasured, memorized and honored for generations to come.

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Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by James E. Ransome: I love reading this beautiful book with my youngest students, for it imparts all of the values MLK stood for, without going into the more painful details of his journey. This book encourages a new generation of young people to be kings by emulating MLK’s remarkable character traits and actions. The lovely illustrations show kids how they can reenact his teachings in their own lives by always standing up for peace, breaking the chains of ignorance, and stamping out hatred by putting a foot down and standing tall.

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As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Herschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom, by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colon: We all know the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., a Black boy who grew up to witness horrifying racial discrimination in America. He became a minister like his father before him, and subsequently rose to become one of the most visible and vital voices of the Civil Rights Movement. Abraham grew up years earlier in Europe, and as a Jewish man, he too, faced atrocious persecution. Abraham fled to America where he became a rabbi, and like MLK, he became a voice for equality. This is the story of how these two remarkable men came together as victims of discrimination, formed an unbreakable friendship, and used their voices to fight for peace and social justice. An extraordinary story, and a favorite to read to tweens.

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Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier: Through his own famous quotes, this beautiful picture book brings MLK to life. Beginning with his life as a young boy and his vow to one day get “big words” like his father, to his death at a garbage worker’s strike, this biography is a fabulous introduction to one of the most prominent voices of the Civil Rights Movement. This is one of my favorite books to read with early elementary students, for its simple narrative that doesn’t stray from the gritty facts but hits all the right notes for younger readers. Age appropriate, powerful, and elegant.

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I am Martin Luther King, Jr., by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulous: We absolutely love the Ordinary People Change the World series for the way it tackles big stories and remarkable heroes in a kid-friendly, accessible manner. Through comic illustrations and word bubbles, this story gives voice to MLK as a child, then subsequently showcases his journey to changing the American landscape through peaceful protests and powerful words. This series is a favorite of my students.

PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHIES

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Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: Henry Brown was born into slavery, never even knowing his own birthday. Torn from his family at a young age, he is put to work at a warehouse. And though he grows up, marries, and has a family of his own, he is once again devastated when his own family is sold at a slave market. Henry longs to be a free man, and upon lifting a crate at his warehouse one day, he knows just what he must do: he will mail himself to freedom. Teach children about the Underground Railroad with this gripping true story.

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Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis, by Jabari Asim and illustrated by E.B. White: Provide kids with background on the Civil Rights movement and the childhood story of one of its most important heroes. John wants to be a preacher when he grows up - but he doesn’t want to wait! Upon being put in charge of the family’s farm, John discovers his chickens make an amazing congregation, and he begins preaching to them. John’s journey — from addressing his farm animals to becoming one of the most vital voices of the Civil Rights Movement, to his stint as a Georgia Congressman to his continued contributions as a significant activist in America — is simply remarkable.

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Rosa by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier: Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white man on the city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, remains one of the most pivotal moments - and remarkable actions - in American history. The stunning prose and cut paper illustrations are a winning combo here, bringing new life to Parks’s perseverance, courageous story and steadfast commitment to the civil rights movement.

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Through My Eyes, by Ruby Bridges: At just six years old, Bridges became a focal point of the Civil Rights Movement when she walked, surrounded by federal marshals, through a mob of angry segregationists and became the first Black student at an all white school in New Orleans, Louisiana. This stunning memoir describes Bridge’s courageous- and at times harrowing - journey, in her own words. It is a testament to hope, courage, and the lengths one innocent child went to be afforded an equal education to her white peers.

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Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes: This gorgeous biography highlights the life and achievements of Fannie Lou Hamer, particularly her stunning accomplishments in connection with the Civil Rights Movement. Fannie, the youngest of twenty children, grew up in a family of sharecroppers. She endured hardship after hardship at her home in Mississippi but never gave up, eventually making it to the stage at the Democratic National Convention in 1964, giving a speech that roused support for the Freedom Democrats and was integral to civil rights for black Americans.

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The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton: Inspire child activists with the true story of a little girl who fought for freedom despite her young age. At nine years old, Audrey wanted to go places. So when she heard grownups speaking about doing away with Birmingham's horrible segregation laws, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. Audrey stepped up with confidence, used her voice, and marched for freedom alongside thousands of children and teens. The youngest person to be arrested for protesting in Birmingham, Audrey’s story shows that you are never too young to make a difference.

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Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Eric Velasquez: This book absolutely blew me away. Schomburg tells the story of Arturo Schomburg, an Afro-Puerto Rican man who was astonished that people of African descent had no historians to bring their stories to life. Schomburg became determined to correct history, and his quest led him to curate a remarkable collection at the New York Public Library that became the cornerstone of the new Negro Division. I can’t rave enough about this fascinating story – this was my favorite picture book biography of 2017.

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Take a Picture of Me James VanDerZee, by Andrea Loney and illustrated by Keith Mallett: James VanDerZee fell in love with the camera when he was just a young boy. He moved to the bustling world of New York City after school and got a job, only to be told by his boss that no white person would want their photographs to be taken by a black man. VanDerZee was undeterred and opened his own studio in Harlem where he took portraits of not just the ordinary neighborhood folk but prominent Harlem Renaissance figures as well, including Marcus Garvey, Florence Mills, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. His portraits were eventually displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe, by Deborah Blumenthal and illustrated by Laura Freeman: Ann Cole Lowe, great grand-daughter of slaves, learned to use a needle and thread as soon as she could walk! She worked with her mother in their dress shop, sewing dresses for fancy ladies who had fancy parties to attend. Ann’s mother died when Ann was only 16, and Ann eventually left home for New York City to pursue her dreams. She went to design school, but due to segregation Ann was forced to study on her own. Through it all, Ann never gave up. She studied, designed and sewed, working her way towards becoming society’s “best kept secret” and designing dresses for Oscar winners and even Jackie Kennedy.

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Mae Among the Stars, by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Barrington: This beauty of a book tells the story of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space! With her mother’s words of encouragement continually whispered in her ears, Mae’s intelligence and drive led her to conquer insurmountable odds until she found herself at NASA. “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.” You can even touch the stars.

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The Doctor With an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath, by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley: From toy chemistry sets to laser probes, this engaging, rhyming book tells the story of Dr. Patricia Bath, a woman born in Harlem with big dreams of becoming a doctor. Undeterred by the evils of sexism and racism, Dr. Bath persevered, eventually becoming an ophthalmologist and subsequently co-founding the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, preserving and restoring the gift of sight. Another win for STEM!

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Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Bryan Collier: My students fell hard for this fascinating story of Ernie Barnes, a young black man who loved art but took to playing football in order to make a living. After all, the south was segregated when Barnes grew up, and he knew there was no future in painting - there were no black artists in the museums! Nonetheless, despite his career as a professional football player, Barnes never stopped yearning to be an artist. He eventually conquered his dreams, painting for the NFL and influencing a generation of artists and illustrators.

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Champion: The Story of Muhammad Ali, by Jim Haskins and illustrated by Eric Velasquez: Sure there have been books about the great Muhammad Ali, but this one is a gem. With beautiful illustrations that at times are so real they look like photographs, this stunning biography of the great boxer and his commitment to social justice touches upon the struggles, successes and set backs of Muhammad Ali. It truly shines a light on his great legacy and will be a treasure for fans new and old

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Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III: Today’s generation of ballerinas admire and hope to emulate the great Misty Copeland. But do these young ladies know about the famous ballerina who inspired Misty herself? Raven Wilkinson was the first African-American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company, never letting racism and mockery hold her back from her dreams. Raven’s persistence led her to dance for royalty in Holland and at the New York City Opera after that— until she was fifty years old. A must have for your little dancers.

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Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, by Lesa Cline-Ransom and illustrated by James E. Ransome: If you know kids who can’t stop, won’t stop when it comes to tennis or any sport,  they will absolutely love this beautifully illustrated story of tennis stars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams. The dynamic sisters are two of the greatest athletes of all time, but they didn’t become champions without dedication, talent, and a whole lot of heart. A wonderful story of perseverance and a testament to their tenacity and love for their sport. 

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Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Pregnancy, by Pete Souza: Souza was President Obama’s Official White House Photographer for two years and was with him during more critical moments of his presidency than anyone else. In this stunning book of approximately seventy-five photographs, Souza captures photos of Obama that showcase him as both an extraordinary leader and man, one who frequently engaged with America’s youngest citizens and continually encouraged them to “dream big dreams.”

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Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison: This stunning anthology features snippets of 49 black women who, in their own various ways, helped change the world. From poets to pilots to politicians, the fascinating stories combined with stunning illustrations make this book a winner, conveying to our children how people can break barriers when they dream, persevere and never stop believing in themselves.

MOMENTS AND MOVEMENTS

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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Dreams and Their Lives Brought to Life, by Ashley Bryan: This stunning book of poetry incorporates actual documents from an estate appraisal on July 5, 1828, valuing the will and worth of eleven slaves who live and work on the plantation. The only thing that can not be valued? The dreams of these men and women. On stunning collaged spreads, each slave is given a voice, with one page describing the “worth” and skills he or she brings to the plantation, while the other page explores the dreams that each slave wishes he could achieve with those skills. Powerful, astonishing, and incredibly emotional, this is a stunning achievement and an important, unique look at this stain on American history. 

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Freedom in Congo Square, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie: In this poetic work of nonfiction, readers learn about a little-known piece of Black history. Though slaves toiled during the week in nineteenth century Louisiana, they counted down to Sunday afternoons - a time when they congregated at Congo Square in New Orleans. Here they could temporarily forget about their oppression and, for several hours, sing, dance, play, and even open up a market. Congo Square was a place of celebration, freedom, hope and resilience, and it helped black men and women maintain some of their significant cultural traditions.

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Let the Children March, by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison: After hearing the powerful words of Martin Luther King, Jr., many Black children volunteered to march for their civil rights in protest of the laws that forbid them from attending the same schools, playing on the same playgrounds, and drinking from the same water fountains, as white children. Despite their fears, these children faced hatred and danger to march in The Children’s Crusade, using their voices to change the world.

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Freedom Summer, by Deborah Wiles and illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue: This remarkable story describes what happened after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbidding segregation. When two best friends, one white and one black, discovered the town pool would now be open to everyone, the two boys raced each other there, only to be in for a very rude awakening. Use this story as a springboard to discuss segregation and the unfortunate reality that it takes more than new laws to eclipse hate. One of my very, very favorite stories - incredibly powerful and thought-provoking.

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Sit In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney: This wonderful book celebrates the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students, following Martin Luther King’s example of peaceful protest, sat down at the “white’s only” counter at Woolworths and placed a simple order for a doughnut and coffee with cream. This sit-in became a defining moment in the struggle for civil rights and racial equality in America.

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Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Shane W. Evans: This is a powerful historical picture book about a 100 year old African-American woman who makes a long trek up a steep hill to vote for the very first time. As she walks, she remembers her family history — from the passage of the fifteenth amendment to her parents registering to vote, from the impossible tests given to prevent Black men and women from voting to marching in the civil rights protest from Selma to Montgomery.  Moving, lyrical and tremendously important, this is a fabulous glimpse at American history.  

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, by Selina Alko and illustrated by Sean Qualls: I love this beautiful, non-fiction book about the Lovings and their fight to make interracial marriage legal in every state across America.  Richard (a white man) and Mildred (a Black woman) fell in love and got married - yet,  marriage between people of different races was illegal in Virginia and they were thus forced to marry legally in Washington D.C.. After their marriage, the police barged into their Virginia home and jailed the couple, prompting a fight against the unfair law that ended up before the Supreme Court -- where the Lovings won. A fabulous intro to the Lovings and the fight for marriage equality. 

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Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly and illustrated by Laura Freeman: Did you love this movie? Well now you can share the inspiring story of these four brilliant women with your kids and students. Hidden Figures is the captivating true story of four Black women who lived at a time when being Black— and being women — limited their abilities to do what they wanted to do: math. And they were really good at math. Did they let societal and gender norms stand in their way? Absolutely not… and so they broke boundaries. This book is outstanding.

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Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph, by Roxanne Orgill and illustrated by Francis Vallejo: We are in love with this beautiful tribute to jazz musicians in the fifties! In 1958, Esquire Magazine planned to salute the American jazz scene in one of its issues. One graphic designer had a crazy idea to gather and photograph a group of beloved Black musicians on a Harlem stoop. The photograph became iconic, and this fascinating collection of poetry celebrates the lives — and even quirks — of some of America’s most beloved musicians.

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Roots of Rap: 16 Bars and the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Frank Morrison: Did you know that hip hop has its roots in folktales and poetry? That rap music long preceded DJ Cool Herc and Grandmaster Flash? With a forward by Swiss Beatz, this vibrant book uses the four pillars (graffiti, break dancing, rapping/MCing and DJing) to illustrate how hip hop is a language spoken around the globe, including nods to some of the music’s most prominent artists today.

We hope you commemorate Black History Month in your homes and schools with these outstanding works of children’s literature. Enjoy!

Which of these books are your favorite? Make sure to let us know on our Facebook page (and don’t forget to “like” us there, too!)

Did you like this post? We think you will love these too! Kind Hands, Kind Words, Kind Hearts: 21 Books to Promote Kindness, Inclusiveness and Equality, Ten Favorite Books to Evoke Change, Twenty Picture Books About Amazing Women, and Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018.

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Favorite Picture Books to Spark Your Child's Imagination

It’s a new year! Imagine all of the possibilities the next 365 days will bring with phenomenal picture books that will help your child’s imagination set soar!

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My almost six year-old thinks he’s Lebron James. In his mind, he plays for the Lakers, keeps his pals from the Heat and the Cavs on speed dial, and has a jump shot that takes down the moon. When he broke his arm last year, half of the boys in his pre-K class sent cards telling “Labron Jams” to get well soon. Some may call it an identity crisis, but I like to think of it as a vivid and vibrant imagination.

Too often, we underestimate the power of play. Yet it is play - pretend play, imaginative play, playing “make-believe” - that helps our children make sense of their worlds. Kids learn not just by doing, but by imagining. When they use their imaginations, our kids are gaining valuable developmental skills. They learn empathy by taking on new personas and stepping into another’s shoes. They explore scary situations while nestled in safe spaces. They experiment with language when they act as parents or teachers, or, even better, when they make up their own languages while pretending to be animals or fairies. They even learn to problem solve when they determine how build a castle or how to perfect a jump shot high enough to knock down a star. 

So what do you do when your little one keeps insisting he’s Lebron James or Daniel Tiger or, even cooler, a cyclops unicorn with long blond locks just like Rapunzel? Encourage it! Encourage your kids to think, to dream, and to unleash their creativity in any and all ways possible. They are learning tremendously without even realizing it, and I have no doubt that you’ll be wildly entertained by their antics.   

Looking for ways to encourage that imaginative play? Here are some of Happily Ever Elephants' favorite books to help their imaginations run wild. 

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Du Iz Tak?, by Carson Ellis: Read this once with your kids, and I promise they will be rolling on the floor laughing as they listen to the made up “bug language.” Read it a second time, and magic happens when your little ones realize the words actually make sense.  This book is genius, both for the hilarity it inspires and the critical thinking it involves. Even better? I almost guarantee your kids and students will be wholly engaged in creating their own unique languages long after the book is put down.

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The Whisper, by Pamela Zagarenski: When a little girl goes home from school after borrowing a book from her teacher, she discovers that all of the words have disappeared from the pages, leaving only the illustrations for her to look at. She is frustrated at first, until she hears a whisper telling her that she can imagine the words and the stories all on her own. What follows is a child who initially grapples with the idea of putting her own words to the illustrations, but then slowly finds her voice and unlocks the doors of her imagination. For our full review of The Whisper, click here!

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A House that Once Was, by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Lane Smith: This book is exquisite. When two children come across a house that once was but is no longer a home, imaginations take flight as the two wonder who lived in the house, walked through the halls, and slept in its bedrooms. And why did they leave? A stunning blend of art and prose that together make music, this is one I return to frequently for the mystery within its pages and the way it so perfectly allows children to let their creativity take flight.

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This is Sadie, by Sara O’Leary and illustrated by Julie Morstad: This is one of my absolute favorite picture books, celebrating story and creativity with a beautiful narrative and gorgeous illustrations. Through casual yet precise text, this story takes the reader through a mundane day that becomes both adventurous and awe-inspiring through nothing more than Sadie’s power of imagination. With each turn of the page, we see how books transform Sadie’s ordinary experiences into extraordinary adventures. For our full review of This is Sadie, click here!

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Please Bring Balloons, by Lindsey Ward: After a mysterious note instructs her to bring balloons to the animals on the carousel, Emma obliges. It is then that a wondrous adventure ensues, when the polar bear she rides steps right off the carousel and into the night sky. This is one of those books we come back to again and again, for the sheer awe it provokes, not just in my boys, but in me as well. It is a perfectly magical escape, and it gets those little minds working. If polar bears can ride right off a carousel and into the black of night, what else could happen? For our full review of Please Bring Balloons, click here!

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Poppy Pickle, by Emma Yarlett: Poppy Pickle has quite the imagination, and upon being sent upstairs to clean her room, her imagination comes alive. Her room fills up with the fantastic images she conjures up, and life seems pretty incredible… until, that is, it starts getting crazy. What happens when a mammoth steps right through the door and a crocodile thinks Poppy would make an excellent snack? However will Poppy get these creatures to go away? This one is amazing for letting your kids imaginations run totally, totally wild!

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The Night Box, by Louise Greig and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay: When a child opens the Night Box, day slips into evening as darkness unfurls and stars light up the sky. He is the holder of the key that opens this wondrous box, the one that breathes out night and breathes in the day. What a wonderfully imaginative and unexpected story about one child who holds the key (literally) to our world’s most natural cycle.

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Beyond the Pond, by Joseph Keufler: A little boy in an ordinary town, living in an ordinary house, decides to explore the depth of the pond outside and ends up on an extraordinary adventure. What lies below? Ernest and his dog dive in, and deep down in the water they find a fantastical world complete with dinosaurs and unicorns where bravery reigns supreme. When the boy and his dog finally surface and comes up for air, their seemingly ordinary surroundings may contain a bit of the extraordinary after all.

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What If…, by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Mike Curato: Here is a child who will do whatever it takes to express herself, no matter what challenges she must conquer to do so. She can draw, of course. But she will also sculpt, build, collage, sing or dance her dreams into being. This enchanting story is an ode to the imagination, and a testament that creative minds will always find a way to innovate and bring their visions to fruition.

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Everything You Need for a Treehouse, by Carter Higgins and illustrated by Emily Hughes: In this achingly beautiful and wondrous story, readers are given "instructions" on what they need to build a treehouse, beginning with time, a look up, and a hefty imagination. The book breathes life into each and every requirement for the house. Together, the story and illustrations spark magic and awe. For our full review of Everything You Need for a Treehouse, click here!

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Chalk, by Bill Thompson: In this gorgeous wordless book, three kids find an unusual bag of chalk on a rainy afternoon. They start drawing on the pavement, and within moments, their drawings come to life, entrancing the children with their remarkable power and mystery. This book is an absolute dream, with vivid illustrations that bring this imaginative story to life. The kids can stop the rain and create a sky full of butterflies, but how on earth will they tame a devilish dinosaur?

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Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg: This book is an absolute gem that shows children (and adults!) that with a bit of creativity, our mistakes can be turned into discoveries. Maybe tears in paper, ink spills and drawing mishaps exist simply to make magic happen. This book, with its pop-ups and flaps and holes and tears, certainly makes it seem so.

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Door, by Jihyeon Lee: What happens when, during your daily, mundane activities you come across a key - and then a solitary closed door? You go through it, of course. And you enter a world where people and animals and other unique creatures live together in harmony and beauty despite their significant differences. Because this book is wordless, children’s imaginations set soar as they eagerly select their own words to tell this wondrous story.

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The Book of Mistakes, by Corinna Luyken: This is a quiet masterpiece illuminating the inherent beauty underlying every misstep we make. So many kids are perfectionists, beginning a project again and again because they can't get it just right. So how can we, the adults help to nurture their creativity and limit their insecurity? Use this book to show little ones that magnificence can be found in mistakes, even our biggest ones.  For our full review of The Book of Mistakes, click here!

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Wallpaper, by Thao Lam: This is the story of a young girl who moves with her family to a new home. Outside her window, the child sees kids in a treehouse, but she is too scared to say hello.  With nothing else to do, she picks at a torn piece of wallpaper in her room, and a fantastical journey suddenly ensues.  What happens when she discovers a monster on her journey? She's scared, of course, until she realizes the monster simply needs a friend. And he may be just the creature to give her a hefty dose of courage to survive her new circumstances. For our full review of Wallpaper, click here!

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I am Famous, by Tara Leubbe and Becky Cattie and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff: If you have a child who lives for the stage, this book is for you. This one cracks me up, because Kiely doesn’t just think she is famous, she knows she’s famous. The paparazzi (her adoring parents) take pics of her wherever she goes, and she even has a personal chef and chauffeur (gotta love mom!). I Am Famous is perfect for kids who dream they are stars of their own shows.

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Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, by Josh Funk and illustrated by Brendan Kearney: A pancake and a piece of french toast are the best of friends, until that fateful day they discover there is only one drop of syrup left in the fridge. Behind the closed doors of the refrigerator, all food comes to life, and the competition to get to that last drop of syrup is not just fierce, but incredibly fun as well. Talk about a rollicking rhyming romp! This may just be the most imaginative food fight ever, and if your little ones are anything like mine, they will totally delight in the escapades that ensue once the refrigerator doors close and the food inside takes over. For our full review of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, click here!

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Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis: A box is just a box. Or is it? Of course not! Not a Box is the perfect book to help toddlers get their imaginations soaring, as it brilliantly teaches little ones that with just a bit of imagination, an ordinary box can become so much more. Your kids will turn boxes into cars, castles and candy shops before too long!

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Imagine by Raul Colon: In this stunning wordless book, one young boy discovers art for the first time. Though he frequently passes by Manhattan’s museums, on one particular day he decides to walk in to the Museum of Modern Art. The boy studies painting after wondrous painting, until he stops at one and the famous work suddenly comes to life, its characters jumping off the canvases and into the real world, to join the boy on an adventure. The boy’s afternoon is thus filled with exploration and wonder as he and his new friends discover all of the excitement New York City has to offer. For our full review of Imagine, click here!

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Time for Bed, Miyuki, by Roxane Marie Galliez and illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh: Sweet Miyuki just doesn’t want to go to sleep, despite her grandfather’s pleas. Why? There are too many things to do, like water the vegetables, gather the snails and prepare for the arrival of the Dragonfly Queen. With gentleness and patience, her grandfather indulges Miyuki’s antics until finally, she is ready for bed and sleep overtakes her. Children will delight in the gorgeous illustrations and Miyuki’s marvelous imagination! For our full review of Time for Bed, Miyuki, click here!

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Also an Octopus, by Maggie Tokuda-hall and illustrated by Benji Davies: Do you know what the best stories start with? If you guessed a whole lot of nothing, you’re absolutely right. Storytelling has to involve a character who wants something, and this instructive, fantastically creative picture book will have your kids laughing and imagining goofy characters and wild situations in no time at all. Also an Octopus is, hands down, one of our very favorites for budding authors.

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Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, by Julia Denos:  This is a spellbinding story about Swatch, a wild little girl with even wilder black hair, who is a color tamer. She jars up colors and collects them on her shelves, and she longs to harness all of the colors in the world. But Swatch eventually discovers that some colors refuse to be tamed, causing a drastic change in her master plan. The result? Something special and luminous, resulting in an imaginative story and illustrations your kids will pore over again and again. For our full review of Swatch, click here!

Which of these books are your favorites to ignite your child’s imagination? Let us know on our facebook page, and make sure to follow us there!

Did you like this post? We have a feeling you will love some of our others too. Make sure to check these out! Happily Ever Elephants Favorite Picture Books of 2018, Favorite Books About Friendship, and Favorite Books About Courage.

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Happily Ever Elephants' Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018

Another year, another incredible array of nonfiction picture books for your youngest readers! The nonfiction picture books for kids released in 2018 were simply unbelievable. The stories were engaging, the facts intriguing, and the illustrations truly remarkable.

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Happily Ever Elephants' Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018!

What a year. When it comes to middle grade novels for tweens, the quality and breadth of the stories released month after month in 2018 totally blew me away. There were many chapter books I devoured breathlessly in one sitting, then wanted to pick right back up and start all over again upon reaching the very last page.

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There were books that made me feel so deeply, made me question social norms, and made me ache desperately for change, growth and enlightenment for our society as a whole. And there were also stories that made me cheer, because the protagonists with whom I fell in love found strength, friendship and, perhaps most importantly, themselves.

These are my favorite chapter books written for tweens this year,* books I would loosely recommend for fourth grade on up. I am seriously in love with these stories, and I hope your children and students will use these books as windows through which they can learn about others and mirrors in which they see themselves reflected in wondrous and inspiring pages.

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Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed: This is the story of Amal, a bookish girl living in Pakistan with dreams of becoming a teacher. But one day at the market, Amal mouths off to the wrong man: Jawad, son of her village’s wealthy landlord. In order to pay off the debt for her insulting behavior, Amal is forced into indentured servitude with Jawad’s family, leaving her own family behind. At the landlord’s pretentious home, Amal sees firsthand the dangers of illiteracy and gender inequality, and she begins sneaking books from the library and teaching the other servants to read. When Amal is sent by the family to be a patron at the village's new literacy center, she recognizes that her education has given her a powerful hand- the ability to take a critical stance against corruption. Simply stunning - and as proof of its excellence, it was this year’s Global Read Aloud, utilized to connect children all across the globe. For our full review of Amal Unbound, click here!

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The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection, by Colby Sharp: This fantastic collection of stories is just so much fun! In this unique book, kidlit champion Colby Sharp gathered a group of more than forty beloved children’s book writers and illustrators and engaged them in one heck of a creative challenge. Each writer created a story prompt — a photo, a poem, a sentence, a quote, whatever they wanted — and that prompt was sent to another writer in the group. When everyone received their prompts, they could transform them into anything they wanted. The result? An incredibly dynamic, unique and poignant collection of short stories, words, poems and art from some of the most beloved writers in the children’s book industry, including Peter Brown, Kate DiCamillo, Minh Le, Jennifer Holm, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Javaka Steptoe, and so many more. Priceless!

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Front Desk, by Kelly Yang: This is the story of Mia Tang who, together with her parents, leaves China and arrives in America in search of the American Dream. But their hard work and determination doesn’t mean life will be easy, and when Mia’s family finds themselves operating a motel for a cruel and exploitative owner, life is anything but what they had imagined. Mia runs the front desk at the motel, and the tougher her days are, the more she longs for a better and easier life. With the help of a new friend, the motel’s “weeklies,” her devoted parents, and a lucky pencil, Mia may be able to find that she can achieve her own American dreams with a hefty amount of perseverance and a whole lot of heart. A beauty, and my school book club’s favorite book this semester! For our full review of Front Desk, click here!

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Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes: This is an absolutely fantastic and gut wrenching novel about Jerome, a twelve year old black boy who is shot and killed by a white police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one. As a ghost, Jerome sees the devastation and chaos his death has caused, with his family and community at the heart of it. While his family protests what they believe is an unjust killing, Jerome meets another ghost — that of Emmet Till, a boy who lived decades earlier and experienced the same destructive injustice — as well as Sarah, the police officer’s daughter, who is still alive. Together, Emmet and Sarah help Jerome process his death. Deftly weaving history with today’s pressing issues, this story is a haunting beauty, one that has a place of importance on every tween bookshelf and in every school collection. Though this is undoubtedly a tough topic, Ghost Boys is age appropriate and expertly written.

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Harbor Me, by Jacqueline Woodson: Six children are taken to their school’s old art room and told it’s a place for them to have a weekly chat— without teachers, thus making it totally unmonitored. The six kids, from varying walks of life, are hesitant at first. They each have their stories, but is it safe? Can they open up to one another? The room becomes dubbed the ARTT room, an acronym for “a room to talk,” and soon enough, their stories begin. As the kids’ connections develop and their words bridge divides, the students realize that sharing their stories could be the very thing they needed to give them the strength to handle circumstances that once made them feel so desperately alone. Timely, tough, but oh-so-touching, this is one not to be missed. For our full review of Harbor Me, click here!

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Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake: Ivy Aberdeen’s s home is flattened by a tornado that rages through her town. All she manages to save as she flees her house is her pillow which contains her most precious possessions- fancy markers and a journal filled up with drawings, many of which include pictures of Ivy holding hands with an unidentifiable girl. After the storm, Ivy’s notebook goes missing. When her pictures mysteriously begin showing up in her own locker, together with notes encouraging Ivy to be true to who she is, Ivy hopes the letters are coming from a girl on whom she has developed a secret crush. But is owning her truth as easy as Ivy wants it to be? Ivy’s words and yearnings will be windows for some and mirrors for others, but her burning desire to understand who she is at her core will be loved and cherished universally.

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Louisiana’s Way Home, by Kate DiCamillo: In this beautiful, moving story of self discovery, we revisit one of the three girlfriends from Raymie Nightingale. Who? Louisiana Elefante, of circus family fame! But our story begins not in Florida, and instead with Louisiana and her granny on the run - they have left their home in the middle of the night and are driving straight up to Georgia, where they must stop when Granny suffers from a horrific toothache. The pair wind up at a motel in the middle of nowhere, so when Granny leaves again - this time without Louisiana by her side - Louisiana is alone and devastated, fearing she will forever be destined for goodbyes. When Louisiana learns a painful secret upon her grandmother’s disappearance, her past unravels before her eyes and she must decide what she wants — and who she wants to be. A breathtaking masterpiece that made me cry over and over again. For our full review of Louisiana’s Way Home, click here!

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The Night Diary, by Veera Hirandandani: The year is 1947. India, no longer ruled by the British, has been divided into two countries, Pakistan and India, which has created significant discord between Hindus and Muslims. This leaves twelve year old Nisha, half Indian and half Muslim, distraught. Who is she, and where does she belong? When Nisha’s Indian father decides Pakistan is no longer safe, Nisha and her family flee, becoming refugees overnight. Told entirely in letters to the Muslim mother she never knew, Nisha’s story is riveting, nuanced and oh-so-compelling, especially for children struggling to understand who they are, where they fit in the world, and how to move on when both home and heart are ripped in two. An accessible, historical masterpiece that I fell head over heels in love with from the very first page.

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The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson: I love when puzzling stories of the past become present day mysteries just begging to be brought to life and explored. That is exactly what happens here, in this fabulous, intricately plotted story about Candice and her sidekick, Brandon. After Candice discovers a letter addressed to her grandmother describing an injustice that happened long before Candice’s time, she goes on the hunt to solve a puzzle - and find a fortune. Expertly moving between past and present, the challenge leads the friends deep into the history of their South Carolina town and is marked by great discovery — not just about their home, but about themselves, too. This book has received a long list of accolades for a reason - love, love, love it!

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Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster. by Jonathan Auxier: This is the story of Nan Sparrow, an orphaned chimney sweeper who spends her days performing a thankless — and wholly dangerous — job. After her “Sweep” leaves her, and after she almost loses her life in a chimney fire, Nan fears her days are numbered. But when she awakens in an abandoned attic and discovers a golem made of soot and ash in the room with her, she begins a new life full of hope, friendship and the courage to conquer her greatest challenges. Antisemitism, child labor, and social justice are just some of the issues explored in this beautifully written, fantastical story about one child’s struggle with her position in society and her relationship with an unconventional new friend. Folks, this one utterly astounded and captivated me from beginning to end. For our full review of Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, click here!

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Where the Watermelons Grow, by Cindy Baldwin: This beautiful book tells the story of Della Kelly, a tween girl whose mother suffers from schizophrenia. The book opens with Della’s mother digging seeds out of a watermelon in the middle of the night, talking to people only she can see, and Della at once knows her mother is being tugged back down a dangerous road that once landed her in the hospital for months. With her Dad distracted by trying to save the family farm and her mom spinning out of control, Della decides she is the only one that can heal her mama and save her family - and she refuses to let others in for help. Will Della be able to hold her family together as her mother’s symptoms worsen by the day? Baldwin’s treatment of mental illness feels authentic at every step, and this important book gently reminds us that sometimes, letting go and letting others in is just what we need to survive. For our full review of Where the Watermelons Grow, click here!

Which of these books were your favorite? What would you add? Make sure to tell us on our Facebook page! We can’t wait to hear from you!

Did you love this post? Then you absolutely MUST check out these as well! Happily Ever Elephants’ Favorite Picture Books of 2018, Happily Ever Elephants’ Top 20 Picture Books of 2017, and Favorite Chapter Books for Newly Independent Readers!

*Please note that I cannot possibly read the same amount of chapter books in a year as I do picture books - thus, the number of middle grade books read in total is significantly smaller than my picture book sample!

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